MLB Trade Rumors: Recapping the Latest Talk at the All-Star Break
The MLB All-Star break provides four days of much-needed rest and relaxation during an exhausting season. Unfortunately for baseball's general managers, this vacation represents their busy season with the July 31 trade deadline looming.
Although the Oakland Athletics jumped the gun and gathered some major pitching upgrades already, most notable in-season deals don't typically occur until shortly before the door for deals closes. Important executives are not immune to procrastination, so they'll lunge to their phones as the clock reaches midnight on trading season.
Yet the anticipation is often more interesting than the actual events. If every rumor came true, David Price would be pitching for 20 teams, and every team not in last place would scoop up a mouth-watering talent to propel a postseason push.
Chatter about a star of Price's stature is hard to ignore, so saddle up for the 467th update on that front. He's not the only game in town, however, as several other players could be forced to start anew for the season's final two months.
While MLB takes a brief breather before returning to the grind, let's scour the league for the latest buzz on the trade front.
Note: Advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.
David Price Update
One major sports star is on his way to Cleveland, but July can become even better for Ohio if the Indians can claw one of baseball's premier aces away from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The star prize headlining MLB rumor mills for the past year, Price will likely leave Florida when his contract expires at the end of 2015. With the slumping Rays likely knocked out of contention at 44-53, teams will line up for the 28-year-old Cy Young winner, who is posting a 3.23 ERA and MLB-leading 23.9 strikeout-minus-walk percentage.
Although the hot stove is currently lukewarm around Price, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation mentioned the Indians as a potential bidder before the deadline.
Sources indicate that Indians' scouts have been told recently to focus on Rays' prospects, which is an indication that the two sides could be working on getting a deal done. Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote back in January that the two sides had discussed a deal for Price, and that the Rays mentioned Indians catcher-third baseman Carlos Santana, righty starting pitcher Danny Salazar, and shortstop Francisco Lindor as players who they would want for Price at that time.
Lindor may be viewed as untouchable by Cleveland, but a deal centering around Salazar and Santana could net Price and a minor leaguer or two (which would make the Indians' scouting of Tampa's farm system make sense).
Since January, Salazar—heralded as a breakout candidate—registered a 5.53 ERA en route to a demotion. Even though Santana has recovered from a dreadful start, he is still slugging a meddling .388 while searching for a true position. Tampa Bay may now require Lindor, a risky endeavor for a .500 Cleveland team far from guaranteed to retain Price after 2015.
Royals Eyeing Jonny Gomes
Bestowed with grand playoff aspirations entering the season, the Kansas City Royals instead fluttered to a 48-46 record at the break, placing them 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.
One must not trek far to locate Kansas City’s weakness: power. As a team, the Royals rank last with 55 home runs, an amount matched by Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion combined. They can use an extra injection of power, but don’t have the financial resources to make a major splash, nor should they want to repeat their past impatient blunder in trading Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi for James Shields.
According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Royals are interesting in acquiring Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox. While the 33-year-old righty is hitting just .234/.329/.351 in 2014, his prowess against lefties has spawned interest. Gomes sports a career .279/.379/.496 slash line against southpaws and a .403 on-base percentage versus them this season.
Despite their desperation for power, it’s odd to see the Royals clamor for such limited sluggers, contradicting the younger squad built around defense and pitching. A similar move at the other side has failed; in 34 plate appearances with the team, Raul Ibanez is hitting .118/.118/.206.
A returning Alex Gordon is locked into left field, and Lorenzo Cain masterfully roams the spacious center at Kauffman Stadium. Although Norichika Aoki has woefully underwhelmed, he is still hitting .348 against lefties, which gives them a potent platoon with Jarrod Dyson in right.
Mets Shopping Bartolo Colon
When the New York Mets stormed into the All-Star break, winning seven of their last eight games and upping their season run differential to plus-19, their status as sellers was tossed into uncertainty. Don’t expect a firesale out of Flushing, but the Amazins are still willing to part with one valuable veteran piece.
In a perfect world, the Mets will have no room in their rotation for Bartolo Colon next season. Barring a setback, ace Matt Harvey will rejoin a promising unit that includes fellow young hurler Zack Wheeler alongside Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and the red-hot Jacob deGrom.
Throw in top-prospect Noah Syndergaard, and the Mets are hoping they have a starting pitching logjam on their hands. With that potential surplus in mind, the club will shop Colon before the trade deadline, according to ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin.
The Mets are not yet believed to be engaged in serious talks about Colon, and it is not a foregone conclusion that he will be dealt, but a major league source predicted dialogue would increase in the next week. An August trade remains possible, too, via a team making a waiver claim.
In the first season of his two-year deal, Colon entered the break with a 3.99 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through 121 innings pitched. He has brandished his trademark impeccable control, issuing just 17 walks through 18 starts while upping his strikeout ratio to 6.58 K/9.
Although the 41-year-old won’t generate a rich return, such a tested and durable arm will attract suitors heading into the stretch run. Knowing the Mets' torturous history with promising young pitchers, the question is whether general manager Sandy Alderson will take anything he can get or keep Colon as insurance for a possible 2015 run.
Angels Pushing for Padres' Pitchers
Trapped in baseball’s toughest division, the Los Angeles Angels are stuck behind the Athletics in the American League West despite possessing MLB's second-best record (57-37) and run differential (+89). After the A’s took an ultra-proactive approach by snagging Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, their rivals are now looking to even the score.
Looking to land a pair of pitchers of their own, the Angels are directing their attention toward the San Diego Padres, whose pitching staff ranks fourth with a 3.18 team ERA despite their 41-54 record. The Angels, on the other hand, hold a 3.84 team ERA with holes in their rotation and bullpen.
Sounds like the Angels should give the Padres a call. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, they've done just that, inquiring about the Friars' front-line starter and closer.
The Los Angeles Angels, trailing the A's by 1-1/2 games, are trying to counter their division rivals by targeting both Padres All-Star closer Huston Street and right-hander Ian Kennedy, according to major league sources.
The teams have discussed Street, but their talks have yet to include Kennedy, sources say. In addition, a package deal might be difficult to complete with the Padres controlling both Street and Kennedy through 2015.
Kennedy has made his case to secure a massive raise this offseason, recording a 3.47 ERA and 9.63 K/9 rate during his bounce-back campaign. Street has also given the club ample leverage to pawn off the 30-year-old closer by allowing four earned runs through 33 innings. Petco Park has enhanced their trade value and will embellish their replacements' numbers, so it makes sense for them to transform these veterans into younger, cheaper assets.
The one caveat: Los Angeles has a depleted farm system that will impede such a major transaction. To give up such a haul, San Diego may ask for a young, productive big league bat in Kole Calhoun or C.J. Cron.
Red Sox Selling?
Less than a year removed from winning the World Series, the Boston Red Sox could shortly throw in the towel on 2014.
With Boston trailing the Baltimore Orioles by 9.5 games in the American League East, chances of a title defense are bleak for the 43-52 Red Sox. Rather than overcompensating by peddling prospects for veterans who won't erase the deficit, they are now on the other end of the conversation, fielding calls from contenders pursuing an upgrade.
Per The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, teams are knocking on their door for Mike Napoli, who is on year one of his newly signed, two-year deal.
There have been trade inquiries made on Napoli, according to a major league source. He hasn’t had the year he did last year. There’s also Will Middlebrooks, who could transition to first base. Napoli would have more value if he could catch 20-30 games, according to one American League GM, but his degenerative hip condition doesn’t allow it.
Although Napoli's .431 slugging percentage would mark the lowest tally of his nine-year career if sustained, his .389 on-base percentage, fueled by a 16.2 walk percentage, makes him a commendable option, even as a below-average defender manning first base.
Boston is also kicking the tires around for Jake Peavy, whose ERA (4.59) is in danger of remaining north of 4.00 for the fourth time in the past five seasons. This time, though, his 4.72 FIP supports those struggles, whereas the advanced metrics usually paint a brighter portrait of his contributions.
The Red Sox have set their post-break rotation, and Peavy's turn does not come up until June 22. Cafardo suggested Boston crafted that order with thoughts of dealing the 33-year-old before his next scheduled outing.
Barring him somehow throwing 137.2 innings over two-and-a-half months to kick in a 2015 option, Peavy will hit free agency this offseason. The former Cy Young winner enticed Boston to make a mid-season move last year, but other squads won't express the same eagerness this season.
Phillies Flying Marlon Byrd to Seattle?
When Marlon Byrd hit a career-high 24 homers at age 35 last season, he was clearly playing over his head. There was no way he would continue to tower over his past prowess for more than one isolated fluke season.
One year later, Marlon Byrd continues to rake with the Philadelphia Phillies. And one year later, Marlon Byrd once again could switch uniforms to a team in playoff contention.
The Seattle Times' Ryan Divish said on Twitter that the Seattle Mariners "have had serious discussions" with Philadelphia about Byrd, who "is willing to waive his no trade clause." Third in the AL West despite boasting baseball's fourth-best run differential, the Mariners can only ride aces Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma so far with the offense's 28th-ranked .677 OPS holding the team back.
Granted, Byrd's production has waned, as his .291/.336/.511 from 2013 has dipped across the board to .263/.315/.479. Yet he is proving his power explosion is hardly a fluke with another strong season at the plate. He is placed 36th among all position players in slugging percentage, and only 15 hitters have amassed more than his 18 long balls.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are resting 10 games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East's basement. There are bigger names (Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins) to monitor should they decide to blow it up, but Byrd to Seattle is a practical move for both sides.